by Dillon Weickum
Who is Zorznijor?
Zorznijor is a Seattle recording project that I started in 2016, as something to do in between making Johnny Unicorn music. The live band I've put together consists of:
Naomi Adele Smith- a keyboardist / vocalist who by day locks people in rooms for money
Ian Steiner- an expert percussionist who is about to pursue a music graduate degree in Austria
Max Steiner- a guitarist and chemist-to-be
Johnny Unicorn- a multi-instrumentalist, composer, and audio engineer
What does Zorznijor mean?
I invented the word "Zorznijor" because I like the way it sounds. It has no meaning beyond that.
I saw that you are a high-volume recording project, what does that mean exactly?
My favorite thing about music has always been recording and putting out albums; receiving them from the printing company, touching them, opening them, smelling them, seeing them on shelves, and more recently, seeing them available on streaming websites. As Johnny Unicorn, I release an album roughly every two years, and slowly chip away at the recordings until they feel done. Zorznijor is a way to express the build up of ideas that would otherwise be held hostage by my recording process, as well as a personal challenge to see how much music I can make. The first draft is often as listenable as the final product, so why not release everything? This project allows me to see my new albums available for streaming a bunch of times in a year instead of just every once in a while. Matt Farley's Motern Media has been my inspiration for high-volume recording; Farley has almost 20,000 songs available on streaming websites, and ekes out a modest living from the fraction/cent/stream pay structure (on top of being a very nice person and community builder).
What is your record for most tracks released in a year?
I released 587 songs the first year, and 587 songs the second year, and since the third year's not over, I guess 2016 and 2017 are tied for first. 2018 is very likely to see a dip in amount of songs released on account of wanting to give my ears a rest, and increased pickiness in song composition. Or perhaps it really is possible to run out of ideas. I'm currently up to about 230 or so songs this year.
Your music is all over the place as far as genre. What are your influences?
Specifically: They Might Be Giants, Gentle Giant, Frank Black, Genesis (all eras), Zappa, King Crimson, Prince, Magma, Anekdoten, Beach Boys, Abba.
Generally: 80's funk/r&b, 70's jazz fusion, minimalism, 20th century classical, grunge, progressive rock, home-recording.
I would probably like pretty much anything, but those things are what I've spent more time listening to than anything.
I read that you make each track in about an hour, what does that process look like? Are you throwing out a lot of tracks?
The recording process differs from song to song, but generally goes like this: I open up a single Pro Tools session and lay down 40 or so minutes worth of chord progressions and maybe fake drums (drums first if I do them). The composition of these parts is very quick, and sometimes improvised. Then, I go through all the songs and touch them up with other instruments, thickening up the chords, or putting in little melodic lines here and there, leaving space for vocals. Then I just start singing over all of it. Lyrics are the slowest thing I do, so if I don't already have a bunch of unsung lyrics sitting around, I can get pretty bogged down at this point. If I want to get the recording done faster, I simply add fewer instruments. At the end of 2016, I recorded an 81-song album in a 24-hour period by mostly only doing piano chords and vocals. In contrast, I spent a month working on a 15-song album for which I spent a lot of time layering and being particular about the arrangement.
I don't like hearing songs repeatedly, so this project has been great for creating songs without having to hear them too much. Many songs I forget I even wrote, so hearing them later is like leaving a gift for myself.
The only recordings I throw away are ones where I've written lyrics that I believe to be ill conceived in some way (for instance, they are judgmental, or express some hitherto unchecked bias that I'd rather not have out in the world).
What can we expect from your live show?
I've put together a band of fantastic musicians (regulars from my Johnny Unicorn albums). It is a relatively quiet band that includes synth marimba, synth drums, keyboard, guitar, baritone saxophone (if it can fit in the car), and vocal harmonies. We have picked our favorite 15 songs from the approximately 1400 available Zorznijor songs, and arranged them collaboratively. Some of the songs are quirky and simple, and some of the songs have beautifully complex arrangements. Most are upbeat, some are danceable, some are humorous, and some are dramatic. If there is time, we might ask for some audience participation. Also, we're really looking forward to meeting everyone at the festival. We've heard a lot about Dreyfest over the years, and we're excited to finally get the chance to go!
Do you have any other projects outside of music?
I photograph, make videos, draw, and have been dabbling in 3d animation, all of these usually in conjunction with my music. I am currently very slowly working on two fully animated music videos. Due to ear sensitivity, I may shift much of my focus to visual art after these shows.
Give me your best pro wrestling style promo.
Here's all I could think of off the top of my head:
"ZORZNIJOR's blowin' in from Seattle like a RAGIN' STORM! We're gonna tear the roof off your ears and RAIN in your BRAIN! Our SYNTHESIZERS are gonna SIMMER INSIDE YER mind until there's nothin' you can do about it but SCREAM FOR MORE! And we've GOT MORE for ya! We've got so much MORE ZORZNIJOR that we're gonna be dishin' it out til the END OF TIME!"